Poking Holes in the COEXIST Movement

written by Jeremy Jackson

The major problems I see in the “COEXIST” movement are the need for protection, the need for healing, and the need for love. None of these are addressed by the sticker’s message. All of these are important and necessary on both micro and macro
levels today.

Thinking people should realize that there is a need for protection. Even if the end goal of the “COEXIST” sticker is merely to support the idea that we all get along, then it has a very serious philosophical dilemma. If we had believed in the ultimate “live together” mantra, would anyone have stood up to Nazi Germany as they brutally killed millions and rolled over Europe? What about other aggressors the world over? This is a Biblical concept – would David have overcome Goliath? Would Moses have stood up against Pharoah? Would Jesus have died on the cross for his teachings and miracles? Overcoming evil requires a willingness to be in opposition to others, a willingness to take a stand. The need for protection is an obvious problem with the “coexist” message.

Another problem with the movement: the suggestion that we “coexist” is merely a bandaid. There is no healing for wounds and no solution for complex problems. To encourage others to “live together” is at best a high-reaching moral standard. It does not offer healing to an already broken world. Jesus Christ offers a solution to the problem of sin, alienation, hostility and bitterness in our culture. He gives us hope in a world that does not offer hope. The “coexist” message, though pragmatic, is not helpful. It does not compare to what Jesus did. The message does not address the need for personal and interpersonal healing. This is done only through the cross: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, … so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace”(Eph 2:14-15). Can harmony, healing and peace come any where else?

One of my favorite movies is the movie “Crash”. There is a terrible feeling you get when you watch the ugly things people do based on their fears and stereotypes. The white police officer in the story profiles a black man and sexually molests his wife. The Armenian man is willing to take a shot at the Mexican man and risk killing his daughter because he thought the man destroyed his business. Even recalling these scenes
now might make you cringe. But the movie also showed hope. It didn’t seem like the director’s purpose was that we see a need to “coexist”. The need is for more than that. He was able to portray in the midst of these horrible scenes and stories, the beauty of human existence too. At the end of the story, the police officer refuses to let the woman he abused die in a burning car, risking his own life to save her. The Mexican man’s daughter believed she was able to protect her Dad by jumping in front of him, and they both survived. These things showed not the desire to merely “exist together”, but a grace that’s above and beyond that: sacrificial, selfless love. Love, as Jesus said, is to lay down one’s life for one’s friend (Jhn 15:13). The Good Samaritan paid dearly to help his neighbor. The “COEXIST” sticker does not address the need for love. Love is what followers of Christ should be concerned about modeling and teaching.

What We’ve Learned

Though there is truth to what its advocates are saying with their message, there are many problems with the “coexist” philosophy and method. What about when one of the groups represented is doing wrong or harm to others? What about the need in life for healing and reconciliation? What about the need for sacrificial love, love that overcomes evil? Like Jesus’ message has been at times, I do believe and understand that this message could possibly have been pure at its inception but unjustly co-opted by money-lovers. Yet, isn’t there something innately skewed about a message of togetherness that’s being sold to us by people who just want to make a profit?

When Jesus was resisted by some religious people who accused him of doing the work of a satanist, He said about his disciples “He who is not for me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Lk 11:23). Sure, Jesus did not come to make enemies, He came to save not judge, but there always came a point where he recognized error and spoke the truth. He would not let anyone slander him and say
that he was the same as a satanist, a liar, a deceiver, a religious pawn or a lunatic. He confronted lies about who He was with the truth.

Not only this, but as it did , it might surprise many others who support the “coexist” message that Jesus is actually credited in more than one gospel with the words “I did not come to bring peace, but division” (Lk 12:51, Mttw 10:34). Either these words were fabrications, as one might choose to believe, or they are a suggestion that Christ’s peace is supreme even to a peace that unites across religious spectrums.
And if Christ’s peace is in fact superior to all, certainly this should be the peace reasoning people spend and work to promote.

CLICK HERE to read “Does Jesus COEXIST?”


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Comments
to “Poking Holes in the COEXIST Movement”
  1. Malek says:

    Another useful and enlightening article, Jeremy – well said! Yes, Jesus did speak truth to power when it came to counteracting lies. Also, I think a grave mistake we humans often make is to judge ourselves by the standard of how we treat our fellow man but what about how we treat God? Part of how “bad” a thing is is the thing itself but another huge aspect of making that determination is who it’s done against … if, in a fit of anger, I kick a rock or even a tree, it’s not really a big deal (though uncontrolled agression is wrong). But, if I kick a dog, it’s animal abuse. But, what if I kick a child with all my might?? Clearly a human being is considered of more worth than a rock. Take that example and multiply it by infinity – what if I lash out against the all-holy, all-God, all-powerful God who created me?

  2. Jonas says:

    When I read this, I couldn’t help but think about the scenario in Korea, with a nearly equal proportion of Buddhists and Christians. The two extremes are easy to see, with many Buddhist monks well versed in the teachings of Jesus – some even celebating the birth of Jesus in temples at Christmas – versus aggressive Christians attempting to wipe Buddhism of the map.
    You can get a glimpe of what’s going on here:
    http://www.koreaherald.com/lifestyle/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20101028000848
    http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2927905
    I think the big question here is whether ‘coexist’ is referring to diverse peoples coexisting in a society, or ideas / ideals / religions coexisting in a single worldview (aka religious pluralism).

  3. Jesus’ claim to be God amounted and still amounts to a declaration of war on existing kingdoms, and many of these have recognized this and responded with violence ever since. So though Jesus was certainly seeking friends and followers, that was also an attack on others who had or are gathering followers. When He said “no one comes to the Father but through Me” it was a claim of exclusivity which offends adherents to any one else. I select the particular quote from John 14, but the claim of exclusivity is found throughout the Gospels. So Jesus Himself was seeking not coexistence but replacement of all other approaches to peace with God and people. Jesus’ followers have been attracted to violent methods, fleshly means of dealing with spiritual matters, wherever it seemed possible to use them. Giving in to that attraction has always been a mistake and a distraction from Jesus’ commands to His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The context clearly calls for persuasion, not violence.
    The founders of both Christianity and Islam seem to have intended wiping other belief systems off the map, as Jonas’ post describes it. Jesus did not intend governmental means, nor did He expect to win the whole of humanity, but only those the Father was giving to Him. Mohammad at least seems to have intended use of governmental means, and expected total victory in the present earthly era. So these two faiths cannot avoid conflict but have very different ideas.
    Jonas’ question about whether “coexist” is referring to diverse peoples coexisting in a society or ideas/ideals/religions coexisting in a single world view is very much to the point, and well phrased too. Jesus’ teaching plainly refers to “all peoples” so coexistence in society is very much a Christian concept, even though many bearers of the name Christian have rejected it. But the exclusivism referred to above conflicts with long term religious pluralism. That’s an ongoing problem for Christians who take Jesus seriously, and probably will be until the end of the present age.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Wow, these are some very insightful and well-thought out comments. Want to collaborate and write a book? … lol I think the biggest thing is that for people to see Christ they have to first be loved and served and shown who He is. We can do that in more ways than we think. The fact that many “christians” have taken a violent path towards “success” in life is truly a detriment to his teachings and obviously to what he did (die, willingly).

    Towards your final point: I would agree, every human effort to “coexist”, seems to have been put on a group of people by another individual or set of individuals, whether it was the “founding fathers” of America, or the Pharoahs of Egypt or Rome who would bring multiple people groups under their umbrella for more nefarious purposes (taxes, slavery, empire). Jesus’ coexist movement allows all to be free from slavery, free from fear, free from the obligation to give, free from the amalgamation of our identities. Who would be at the head of our current coexist movement? Who benefits from it? Taxes, or some sort of fear or enslavement might be there as well.

    Jonas, in the Korean peninsula right now, is there anyone who is truly preaching the reign of Jesus? Action, sacrifice must be taken to make that reign possible, and many have given their lives for Jesus to reign in that region, I know! Do you see any evidence in their efforts of an interest in peace between people of different religions or between people on the other side of the border?

  5. Michael Maybee says:

    Tolerance, the apparent central message of the “coexist” movement, is not wrong. Tolerance is not enough according to Jesus. That was the central theme of a recent sermon series at the church I attend.

    Jesus called us to a higher standard of living than just obeying the Ten Commandments. For example, Jesus taught things like murder is of course against the law, but even being angry with someone and calling them “Fool” is sinful. He also taught that even looking at another person with lustful thoughts is as bad as actually committing adultery with them (Matthew 5:17-30). So it makes sense that just tolerating others is not what God expects of us. Jesus taught that we must forgive those who harm or oppose us, and go so far as to love them; to love our enemies. But who is our “enemy?”

    Well, of course it could be anyone who actually has harmed or threatened to harm us. There are those who openly oppose and/or condemn us, our beliefs, or our way of life. But there is one area about which I am very passionate. I am especially concerned by a growing tendency I see among some Christians. That is the tendency to brand as an enemy any person or group that does not share their religious beliefs and the political and economic philosophies arising therefrom. Those demonized groups include the liberals, gay activists, pro-choice advocates, and so on. But if those people are lost and in need of God’s forgiveness, aren’t these the very people that God wants us to fight for instead of against?

    But why does God want us to forgive and to love our enemies? Well one obvious answer is that it benefits us. If we have difficulty forgiving others, we have problems receiving forgiveness from God. He seems to feel pretty strongly about this. So much so in fact that he told us in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Another more selfless reason is that it benefits those who would be our enemies. God wants us to love them into his family. 2 Peter 3:9 declares that “[God] is patient…not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

    Is there someone in your life that you merely tolerate? Is that what God wants you to do with them? I challenge you to explore what God has to say about not merely tolerating, but forgiving and loving others.

  6. xMICROWAVE SAFEx says:

    I personally see this trendy message of “COEXIST” as a worldly concept. I disagree with it’s meaning and have wanted to expose of it’s lie. I had a really good idea of remaking the same bumper stick. However with the word COEXIST flipped upside down and with a caption that says, “NAW, THAT OKAY!”. Long storie short I lack in photoshop skills and only use paint. I Can only do so much with the paint program. Therefore I haven’t fulfilled this great idea that i’m sure will piss off many. My goal isn’t to piss any one off or have my Truck be a target for being egged. I just feel that this message is misleading and my belief in Jesus is greater than it’s stupid propaganda. I recently bought a couple of these trendy stickers for my Truck and Bass Drum. As I will be placing these stickers upside down, in protest to it’s misleading message. Now for all you Hippies, Hipsters and Tree Huggers, I’ve got other sticker on my Truck for different things. For example, I have a Anti-Swastika sticker, Stickers i made personally (i.e. “TO HELL WITH CANCER!”, “WESTBORO BAPTSIT CHURCH: THE REASON WHY RELIGION SUCKS!”, “DRUG FREE FOR CHRIST: POISON FREE YOUTH”, “POISON FREE GENERATION”, “1 TIMOTHY 4:12”). I even have my fare and tastful share of Pro-Life Stickers and Anti-Drug Messages. The side of my Truck is nothing but SKA, HARDCORE & PUNK band stickers. Just incase you though I was one of those cookie-cutter christian or some condeming religious nut job holding up signs of street corner that read “Repent or Go To Hell”. Any ways, I’d like to see more Christians standing up for the things of God in the form a love and relational aspect. As I may not be a huge fan of the COEXIST message, it doesn’t mean that i’m full of Hatred. My feelings aren’t just confind onto my Truck like a billboard of Justice, but also is heard within my involement in the music scene. Thanks!

  7. Demosthenes says:

    Jeremy,

    I’ll start by saying I disagree with most all of your premises. I will refute your points paragraph by paragraph for clarity.

    1. Coexist would not have supported letting Nazi Germany conquer all of Europe. Clearly, Nazi Germany, by virtue of them attacking other countries and committing mass genocide against Jews and many other races, is completely opposite the message of peace and understanding Coexist promotes. Therefore, by Coexist’s message, people would have an obligation to stop the Nazis in order to maintain the message of peace and understanding. Coexist does not suggest anything about not defending ourselves against the forces of evil. To say that Coexist would have had Moses not revolt against the Pharaoh would be completely missing the point of what Coexist means. Coexisting does not negate the idea of self-defense.
    2. Coexisting does not mean supporting of moral relativism and it is not a temporary solution. In fact, the idea of working out differences is much more realistic than everyone converting to Christianity to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Just as I would never be able to convince you that the teachings of Islam are the one true way to salvation, I would never be able to convince a Muslim that Christianity is the one true way to salvation. So what are we left with but to live in peace and understanding of other cultures?
    3. The final few paragraphs are a series of contradictions and it isn’t clear whether you believe Jesus is about peace or you are suggesting he came to promote division. Christianity does not have a monopoly on the best moral principles. In fact, if you have read the Bible much at all, you have seen these questionable moral standards. (http://www.infidels.org is a good source for the imperfections of the Bible). For example, the idea of the “golden rule” is not only a Christian value, but on that stems back to many ancient societies before the inception of Christianity. Oh and by the way, the Golden Rule: “do unto others as they would do to you,” which is supported by Biblical versus in Leviticus, Mathew, Luke, and Romans (to name a few) supports the idea of “coexisting” completely.

    I don’t know where this hatred of coexisting started, but preaching intolerance and that we should be in conflict with each other is a dangerous message. Such thinking certainly does not bode well for the future of world peace.

    Demosthenes

  8. spiky says:

    It’s really interesting to read Christians who say Jesus preached division and war on other religions.
    Even if the Christians managed to convert everyone in the whole world, we would still see the disagreements between the Catholics and Protestants, between the Baptists and the Episcopalians, and so on. And if people think the point of Christianity is to create division, that is, to hold my religious view above yours no matter what, then those divisions would lead to just as much discord and war anyway — not what the Prince of Peace was after.

    It’s funny to see people react so strongly to seeing religious symbols placed together on a sticker, and to see the weird, illogical lengths some go to try to write a logical or theological explanation for their reaction, which really seems to be almost unconscious: a basic fear and hatred of other religions.

    It seems some writers have deliberately pretended to misunderstand the message that’s being sent by the bumper stickers, which is basically very much the same message as Jesus’ teachings and the golden rule: love thy neighbor, treat others as you would like to be treated (that is, with respect, not fear and hatred), turn the other cheek, etc.

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